Should I Quit My Day Job?
Don't answer that.
It’s far too late to be writing the newsletter, I know. But it’s that lateness that compels me to follow through. Last week I said some things. I was so sure of them. I was like, “Here’s how you write a book, and I know because I’m a professional at this book-writing thing.” I even had the hubris to tell you maybe I’d share with you the new-and-improved-and-definitely-final first few lines of the book.
And then a friend of mine - one of my favorite critics - dropped this bombshell on my draft (literally titled The Other Women, Take 1,000,000).
WHAT THE ACTUAL HELL!
Here I am, thinking I’ve cracked the code - like the whole opening is just unfurling in a soft, fluffy unicorn rainbow of cotton-candy goodness. And then this guy tells me I’ve got it all wrong. Still. Again. Three-and-a-half years and I still can’t figure out what sequence of words will best capture the attention of the inattentive (which, let’s be honest, is just about everyone who’s picking up a book sample these days).
As is typical, my hackles went up. I thrive on feedback, and also I hate feedback - because in my mind, any negative feedback equates to, “Don’t quit your day job.” Which is, well, mostly impossible, because this is my day job, along with the 36,571 other things I cobble together to make a very patchwork career which slightly stresses me out and earns little money but also makes me very happy.
But I know this guy - he knows his stuff, and he wants my writing to be the best it can be. So my response, instead of being defensive, was, “OMG WHAT | tell me now.” Because better to rip the Band-Aid off, right?
Within 15 minutes we had workshopped the first page of the book into what I never, yet somehow always, knew was missing from it. The problem was with exactly what I was saying last week - with describing without showing the impact of that description on the character. But I couldn’t fully see it in my own writing until someone else pointed it out for me.
That, my friend, is the importance of a good editor. They will see things you cannot see because your eyes glaze over and roll back into your head like one of Vecna’s victims (Have you watched yet?). Because you’ve read your work a million and thirty-six times, and it all just kind of runs into itself at this point, doesn’t it?
So, okay. I’m going to share with you what I’d written last week. And I want you to tell me what’s wrong with it. Maybe, if I get brave enough, I’ll share how we changed it. Because I really, really, think it’s right now.
The quiet of the suite is the kind that makes the outside seem like it was never there. There are no traffic sounds, no voices drifting up from alleyways. The drapery, permanently drawn, hangs in a rippled floral mural, the rectangular halo of moonlight the only suggestion of a world beyond these rooms.
It’s been six years since Lucinda lived here with Zavi, passing the most conspicuous months of her pregnancy under lock and key as they waited for Serafina to be born. She’s back here all the time, though, checking up on whatever Sister is stuck in here like she was, with nothing to do but watch her belly grow and wait. Always, the silence speaks to her.
Lucinda walks past the sofa, running her finger along its velvety burgundy upholstery. The network of purple flowers on the window covering shimmers in the lamp light. An old whisper urges her to rip open the curtains and thrust her head out, sucking in deep gulps of cool autumn air, the scent of the river in the distance. Instead, she turns away. She is free to come and go as she pleases, she reminds herself. Celeste is the one tucked away in here now.
Alright - what do you think? What’s right about it? But, more importantly, what’s wrong with it? Let’s see if you and my friend agree.
What’s Entertaining Me?
Have you read The Time Traveler’s Wife? Let me tell you, if you haven’t, go do it. It was one of my favorite books of all time when I read it back in 2006, and it remains so. The characters and magic were so well-written, I found myself wondering what Henry and Clare were up to for weeks after I reluctantly put the book down.
There was a movie, and it was fine, I think. I don’t remember much of it.
But a friend just informed me about the series of the same name, and OH. MY. GOODNESS. This is everything the movie should have been but couldn’t be. Perfectly cast. Amazing. Theo James, who I have loved since Divergent, and Rose Leslie, who I’ve never seen in anything but I hear she’s amazing in GoT - they act the hell out of this, at all different ages and thus maturity levels. It’s like being a dozen mini-characters in one, especially for Theo.
It’s just so good. Watch it and tell me if you feel the same.
What’s Enlightening Me?
I just finished Isabel Wilkerson’s Caste, and, just, wow.
This book outlines the history of race relations in the United States, compares our system of hierarchy to the Indian caste system and the Nazi regime (spoiler: even the Nazis, at some points, were like, “I think the US is taking things a little too far.” It is enlightening and horrifying and should be required reading for all high school students across the country (and maybe around the world).
I’ve got more thoughts about this that I’m going to articulate somewhere, but this email is already getting long, and I need time and space to collect my thoughts before saying anything more.
But read it. Listen to it. Get it downloaded into your brain. However you consume it, do it soon.
Alright, that’s it for me. The only other thing I wanted to share is that I think I have organized my childcare and work schedule in a way that allows me to do more of my own work, on my books and on articles as well. So I’m excited to see what the summer brings.
Have a great week!